Can a sustainable cargo company make Seattle a better place to live? That’s one of the fundamental questions that drives us at FREEWHEEL. Of course, day-to-day, we expect to be obsessed with delivery routes and logistical questions. But our broader passion is about solving problems and making a difference.
Segue to this well-researched piece out of Tufts University, where Alexandra Reisman explores the complexities of urban last-mile delivery. Drawing on previous studies and real world examples, she points out that urban freight is both good and bad for cities.
The good: “Nearly all economic activity in urban areas depends on the movement and delivery of goods through the freight system.”
The bad: “However, the great majority of urban freight is carried by trucks, which, for a variety of reasons, actually threaten the same urban space that they support. Trucks contribute to air pollution, are noisy and unsightly, and take up a large share of road space—both while moving and while parked for loading and unloading.”
More bad: “Places that rely on freight the most, such as business districts—where there is a concentration of people and activities—may also be the most harmed by freight.”
If areas of great density are the biggest problem, can they also provide the greatest opportunity for solutions? The answer may, in fact, be yes.
Reisman concludes that businesses can do a better job at consolidating goods to cut down on the number of trips taken by trucks in these areas. And, yes, she believes there’s an important role for companies like Freewheel that move goods efficiently without diesel trucks.
This all makes sense when you stop and think about it. But who really does think about cargo and how it impacts our city? Public policy debates are vigorous regarding cars, roads, bikes, buses and trains. But the way goods are delivered impacts a whole range of livability and environmental issues. Seattle is a great city. But these issues are real.
FREEWHEEL hopes to offer new thinking, ideas and most importantly, solutions to make urban freight more good than bad.